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Friday, July 3, 2009

Roddick blasts past Murray

Photo Titled Airborne Andy
Andy Roddick is caught in mid-air during his semi-final as he returns the ball to Andy Murray
Three years after his last appearance in a Grand Slam final, Andy Roddick broke the hearts of the Centre Court crowd by defeating the home favourite Andy Murray in a tremendous display of intelligent tennis.

Murray, not at his best, could not find a way to break down Roddick’s serve, and the American won through to the third Wimbledon final of his career 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (9-7), 7-6 (7-5) in three hours and seven minutes. He will face the five-times champion Roger Federer, to whom he lost the finals of 2004 and 2005.

Roddick laid down his marker in the first set. He played with great discipline, attacking only at the right moments. Displaying an almost contradictory brand of patient aggression, he permitted Murray very little to work with.

Of course the number six seed’s game was also peppered with the regulation number of aces, and serves in the neighbourhood of 140mph. At 5-4 with the set on serve, he pounced with an attacking rally to bring up 30-all, and then a beautifully judged dropshot. It was not only the first break point of the match, but set point to boot.

No wonder his new coach Larry Stefanki showed his delight with enthusiastic applause. A long rally followed, with Roddick forcing the error from Murray. The set belonged to the American, and never mind that he had produced barely half as many outright winners as Murray. Both men left the Centre Court for that most useful of tennis pauses, the comfort break.

But not for nothing did Murray come into this match leading Roddick 6-2 in their career encounters, including all of the last three, along with their only previous Wimbledon meeting in 2006. He was bidding to become the first British man to make the final here since 1938, and if he was frustrated by the outcome of the opening set, then it showed at once when Roddick served at the start of the second.

With the first point Murray produced a thunderous crosscourt shot. Next came a narrow angled running forehand as he sprinted to reach a Roddick dropshot, to take him to 0-30 for the first time on Roddick’s serve. Then it was a backhand down the line to leave Roddick stranded, and finally a forced error to break the American to love. At 4-3 Murray almost wobbled but would not permit Roddick to convert the threat, and screamed at himself to keep it going. He did.

At the start of the third it seemed Murray would repeat that early break of the second. In no time he was at 0-40 on Roddick’s serve. But crucially Roddick saved all three, the third with a great diving backhand volley that Murray could not reach.

Roddick, sweat dripping from his cap, pushed on hard in the next game, threatening to bring up break point without quite managing. At 2-1 Roddick capitalised on Murray’s weak second serve, and this game soon had the feel of one that was vital for the Scot to hold on to. But he could not, although Roddick required four break points before he could finally breach Murray’s defences for 3-1.

Murray was livid with himself, and became further irritated in the next game when umpire Pascal Maria gave him a warning for an audible obscenity that no one else at courtside heard. Typically of someone already irritated by other matters, Murray debated the point too long with Maria, continuing the argument during the changeover.

It felt very much as if Roddick was suddenly in control, and he upped the pace even more at 5-2, pushing to break so that he could start the fourth on his own serve. Murray managed to stop that – and then out of nowhere, as Roddick was serving for the set he tightened up.

Two errors and a fabulous crosscourt pass gave the Scot three break points; another error did the job and Murray punched the air, shouting: “Yes!” The set went on to a tiebreak, but Murray alternated between outrageous winners and pressured mistakes. The two traded set points before Roddick forced the mistake from Murray that gave him the set.

Murray, occasionally feeling his right knee, was clearly not serving as well as he had in previous rounds. He was hanging on, but there was no getting away from the fact that Roddick was playing exceptionally well.

A break point for Murray at 4-3 went by. Come the tiebreak and Roddick’s brilliant serving allowed no way through. A Murray backhand floated wide to give Roddick two match points. A fabulous passing shot form Murray saved the first but he could not rescue the second. Roddick sank to his knees, as if unable to believe events, and then generously applauded the Centre Court crowd.

Centre Court - Gentlemen's Singles - Semifinals
Andy Roddick USA (6)Winner647977
Andy Murray GBR (3)466765

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